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Updated: February 1, 2012 19:04 IST

A new high

S. R. Suryanarayan
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No squashing her spirit Dipika Pallikal Photo: V. Ganesan
No squashing her spirit Dipika Pallikal Photo: V. Ganesan

At 20, senior national champion Dipika Pallikal is ranked world No.15, something no other Indian player has ever achieved

She has the looks that can take her beyond the world of squash. She has the racquet skills that have now taken her to a new domain of excellence.

Dipika Pallikal is the current squash sensation of the country. At world No. 15, this Chennai girl has touched a high where no other Indian has ever reached till date in squash. And the good work continues.

For one who played her first international tournament when she was just in Standard Six, Dipika has indeed come a long way. Pushing 20 now and relatively new at the senior level, this Indian player has not only adapted herself well to the professional circuit but is also proving to be a force to reckon with.

The latest is her remarkable performance at the Tournament of Champions held in New York, where she stunned several higher ranked players to storm into the final.

No other player from India has ever achieved this earlier. It is a different matter that in the title-clash she proved no match to the veteran and higher seeded Natalie Grinham. But that doesn't nullify her gritty display till then, nor does it deter her.

“Had it been another day and had I been a lot fresher, it could have been a different tale,” said Dipika about that match. “I had been playing virtually non-stop in that tournament, nine matches in ten days and it was not easy. But I am not giving excuses. Self-confidence makes me believe I am capable,” said the petite player in a chat soon after arriving from New York and gearing up for the next challenge — the U-21 World Cup.

Even as a junior, Dipika was a player who would not give up easily. But her transformation into a tough customer is worth taking note of. She acknowledges the big role the Indian Squash Academy and the officials Cyrus Poncha and Maj (retd) S. Maniam had played in developing her skills, but owes her transformation into the player she is now to her her personal coach Sarah Fitz-Gerald, a former world champion.

Based in Melbourne, Dipika is a regular at Sarah's centre when she is off tournaments. “Sarah has reworked my game totally, correcting my techniques, strengthening my backhand play and improving my approach to a match. She has toughened me for the professional circuit,” said Dipika. Though she travels mostly alone now, Dipika owes her success to her mother Susan, a former sportsperson herself (an ex-cricketer).

“She plans my travel, chooses the tournaments I should play, making sure I have good chances of advancing in each without facing early setbacks. That boosts my confidence,” she said.

Undoubtedly this has helped her. For, from being ranked 29 at the beginning of 2010 and winning three WISPA tournaments and reaching high levels in a few others, not to forget the latest in New York, Dipika could rise to rank 15. “My aim is to enter the top-10 by year-end,” she quipped, without hesitation.

The Indian ace, currently the senior national champion, believes there is huge scope for more Indians to make a mark at the international level.

“We have the talent. What we need is to believe in ourselves. We can do it. This approach has helped me greatly,” she said.

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